Listening time: 5 minutes. A touching account of mutual support and succour between labour camp prisoners and some of the camp dogs.  In this and other accounts, it is clear that dogs can smell good from bad in people.

Here Faludy describes a mutiny of the dogs, seeking refuge from the camp guards in the prisoners’ barracks, for which disloyalty they were cruelly punished.  There is then a pact between prisoners and dogs to care for some of the animals.  I found this astonishing on several levels, including the instincts of the dogs and the empathy the prisoners were able to show despite (or perhaps due to) themselves being on a survival knife-edge.

For other canine quotations, see the Dog page of our themed collections.

Source: György Faludy, My Happy Days in Hell, trans. by Kathleen Szasz (London: Penguin Classics, 2010 (1962)), pp. 463-64

Photo credit: Arawolf at pixabay

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Quotation - Faludy - Happy Days in Hell

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On the morning after they escaped into our barracks we wanted to take the dogs to work with us, but, obeying their instincts, they crawled under the bunks.  After we had left the camp the AVO guards ordered the cooks to remain in the kitchen and keep away from the windows.  Then – as Helvetius related – they coaxed the dogs out into the yard and began to shoot at them. They did not aim at the head but at the hind legs, obviously to revenge the desertion.  When we returned from work, the whole camp was drenched in blood.  The black-and-white-striped mastiff which had spent the night on Uncle Csaplar’s bunk escaped, wounded, to a spot between the two barbed-wire fences and was still alive the next morning.

My large white bitch escaped to the shed behind the kitchen, where it was nursed by Helvetius.  He called over one of the doctors from the infirmary, who extracted the bullets from the dog’s legs and thighs and bandaged them.  At noon, when Helvetius and the other cooks brought the kettles out to the work-sites, he laid the dog in an empty kettle.  He carried the animal to the charcoal-burners’ furnace where two reliable fellow-prisoners were working: Palffy-Muhoray and Lajos Dalnoki Miklos, son of the prime minister of the 1945 democratic Hungarian government. They hid the animal in a woodpile and Helvetius visited it every day, bringing bones and half of the AVO guards’ goulash.  I always looked in on the dog whenever I could. She lay motionless in the dark and, according to the charcoal-burners, never came out into the open.  I squatted down by her, seeing nothing but her luminous eyes and feeling her chin on my hand.  She never made a sound except when she smelled a guard. Then she began to growl, persistently, monotonously, but not louder than the humming of a bee.


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